Friday, 24 July 2009

Can Mobile Broadband Help The Govenment Provide 'Broadband For All'?

The Government has pledged to provide 'broadband for all' by 2012 as part of the Digital Britain project. They believe that broadband is essential for everyone from school children to big business in order to strengthen the economy and reduce poverty. Children from homes without an internet connection tend to get, on average, lower grades. Businesses need fast connections in order to compete with the global market.

At the recent Broadband For All seminar Phil Sheppard, who is the Director of Technical Solutions at Three, said that he believes that Mobile Broadband can be used to get the country connected. He suggested that if Mobile Broadband providers were given access to more of the digital spectrum they would be able to create enough high-speed coverage to help the Government to reach their goal.

“Mobile Broadband tends to be capable and commercially capable of providing the 2Mbps broadband universal service commitment and is an extremely efficient way of doing it. It is very cost effective, it actually doesn’t need government funding, what it needs is access to spectrum, that’s the key”.
The allocation of empty areas of the spectrum (such as that which will be freed up by the switch from analogue television) is causing a lot of debate amongst mobile broadband companies. Hopefully the Government and the Digital Britain Group will take the bait and work with the providers to increase coverage and speed. Those in rural areas could benefit greatly if more of the digital spectrum is given over to Mobile Broadband.

American Mobile Broadband Usage Rises

As I have mentioned previously Mobile Broadband has taken off in a big way. An increasingly large percentage of the population connects via a mobile device and the demographic continues to widen. Until now there has been less information available about mobile broadband take-up in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center has changed that.

The report shows that mobile connections are continuing to increase in popularity in the USA. Around 56 percent of American Adults have used a mobile connection in 2009 in 2007 this figure was around 25 percent. It is worth noting that the research includes connections via 3G mobile devices for instance high-end mobile phones. The launch of the iPhone has helped to popularize internet enabled portable devices and gone part of the way to banishing the terrible memories of WAP connection and tiny screens.

"Mobile access strengthens the three pillars of online engagement: connecting with others, satisfying information queries and sharing content with others" - John B. Horrigan of the Pew Project

19 percent of Americans questioned said that they use a mobile internet device (either a cell phone or a mobile broadband enabled laptop) on a daily basis. The fact that the best mobile broadband offers continue to decrease in price and the availability of good pay as you go mobile broadband with greater coverage means that these figures are likely to increase. Good internet access is becoming the number one selling point for new mobile phones and the technology is improving rapidly. I wouldn't be surprised if this time next year two thirds of Americans had connected via a mobile device at some point.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Some Broadband Users Would Get Better Speeds Using Mobile Broadband

One of the downsides of mobile broadband is that you are less likely to get a great download speed than with a fixed line connection. Speed are improving as is coverage and these are only likely to improve as time goes by. However when I speak to people who have mobile broadband the most common complaint is not that they can't get a signal just that it isn't fast enough.

A recent report by Top 10 Mobile Broadband has said that those in certain areas are likely to be able to get quicker download speeds by switching to a mobile connection. The areas affected, which include Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, currently only get speeds of around 0.5Mbps for traditional fixed-line broadband. 0.5mbps is surprisingly slow connection for a fixed line, perhaps due to distances from a major phone exchange.

Whatever the reason for the poor connection those affected could get better speeds using mobile broadband. Some of the best mobile broadband connections would offer quite a change of pace to browsers in Marlow or Henley on Thames.

Friday, 10 July 2009

BT Suggests that Mobile Phone Users Should Help to Spread the Cost of the Broadband Tax

In the Digital Britain report published last month Lord Carter who is the Communications Minister proposed a 50p per month tax on all fixed phone lines. The aim of the 'Broadband Tax' is to help cover the costs of providing high-speed broadband to the nations computers.

What is needed in order to improve our broadband infrastructure is nothing short of a complete overhaul. The current copper phone lines were not designed to transport large amounts of data at high speed, they were designed to handle voice calls. The problem is that there is some debate about who should be paying for the new system.

BT has suggested that in order to reduce the tax per customer more people should be taxed. Their solution is to place a tax on mobile phones as well. Some of the £1.5bn which is expected to be raised by the tax may be available to mobile operators as well as fixed line companies as they are both able to join the bidding process for a share of the funds.

BT's director of industry policy and regulation (snappy title!) Emma Gilthorpe has said "the government should consider the opportunity to widen the base for the tax and possibly reduce the amount that each individual household pays". The problem with this theory is that most households own a combination of a fixed line and several mobile phones so in the end the same people may be paying the same amount as they would with the standard fixed line tax.

Those without a fixed phone line, mobile broadband customers for instance, might end up paying towards the improvement of the infrastructure if BT's proposals are considered.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Mobile Broadband Coverage Maps Published by Ofcom

The Office of Communications has today published a series of maps showing mobile broadband 'not spots' around the UK. A 'not spot' is an area where no 3G connection is possible leaving consumers either unable to connect or only able to connect via a slower than 3G connection. As those in a 'not spot' may tell you, having a slower than 3G connection can stretch the definition of 'broadband' speeds a little too far.

The maps aim to make the choice for potential mobile broadband customers a little easier by showing clearly which areas are not well covered. Those in more rural areas seem to be the worst affected with Scotland receiving very little coverage by any of the main providers. Those in northern Wales also seem unlikely to get a great signal.

A map has been provided for each of the five main mobile broadband providers with Three Mobile Broadband and Orange appearing to have the most coverage. London is the best area for coverage which comes as no surprise. All five of the maps are available as a pdf from the Ofcom site. Those considering a pay as you go mobile broadband contract would be advised to check these maps before going ahead.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Offcom Confirms Aditional Spectrum Allocation for Mobile Broadband

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) has officially announced an additional spectrum allocation which has been cleared for mobile broadband. The 800Mhz band has been freed up by the shift from analogue to digital television.

Many European countries have cleared their 800Mhz spectrum in order to improve their mobile broadband infrastructure including Denmark, France, Switzerland and Germany. Originally the plan for the UK was to only clear a small section of the spectrum but Ofcom has since decided to clear the full band in order to match other countries allocations.

Ofcom Logo

Once the digital switchover has taken place around the country the cleared areas of the spectrum will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Mobile broadband providers will be keen to take advantage of this in order to improve their services and offer their customers the best possible coverage. Having a large area of coverage and good download speeds is vital for mobile broadband companies and this reallocation should help them to improve.

Mobile broadband customers should be set to benefit from the increased area of the spectrum available to their providers. The Digital Britain Group aims to see 100% broadband coverage by the year 2012. With the increased spectrum now available this is becoming a more realistic aim.